Sault Ste. Marie Wildcats team up with CMHA Sault Ste. Marie to provide mental health support to players

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18 players from the midget AA Sault Ste. Marie Highland Ford Wildcats are better equipped to speak openly about mental health and suicide prevention thanks to a new partnership with CMHA Sault Ste. Marie.

The Highland Ford Midget Wildcats are the first competitive amateur female hockey team in Ontario to adopt the Talk Today program, one of Canada’s most comprehensive sports mental health programs and delivered locally by the CMHA branch.

As part of Talk Today, the Wildcats AA midget players participated in safeTALK, a workshop that teaches individuals the importance of talking about mental health, how to acknowledge signs of suicide, seeking help when they’re in need of support, and connecting others in need of support to suicide first aid resources.

The Wildcats will also have access to a CMHA Mental Health Coach who serves as a liaison for the team and can provide access to mental health resources, referrals to community mental health and addictions support or mental health crisis intervention services.

“This program is very important to the coaching staff, parents and the players. I have had several friends in hockey that have taken their lives and others that are battling with mental health or addictions. I have also had a friend at the age of 16 take her life. If this training was available at the time, maybe, just maybe, someone would have picked up on her invitations (signs) and could’ve helped her,” said Wildcat coach Jeremy Stevenson.  “The Highland Ford Midget Wildcats are thankful to the Canadian Mental Health Association and Lisa Carricato for this terrific opportunity.”

“I applaud Jeremy and his coaching staff for taking the initiative to bring this program to their players. Mental health awareness is important and if an athlete is suffering, they may be more open to talking to a teammate or trusted coach,” said Elissa Plastino, President Sault Female Hockey Association. “Our Midget AA players now have the tools they need to help a teammate, school friend, or even recognize signs in themselves that will make them more comfortable to reach out. I am hoping that this is just the start and that it will evolve it into a larger partnership between CMHA and SFHA.”

“We are very excited to be working with the Highland Ford Midget Wildcats on the Talk Today program,” said Lisa Carricato, Mental Health Coach, CMHA Sault Ste. Marie. “We applaud Jeremy

Stevenson and the Sault Female Hockey Association for wishing to support the mental health and well-being of the girls who play in the organization.”

Locally, Sault College and Algoma University are also partners in Talk Today. The program was originally launched in October 2014 as a partnership between CMHA Ontario and the Ontario Hockey League. More than 2,500 athletes, coaches, parents, billets and staff have participated in suicide prevention workshops as part of the Talk Today program since 2014.